New Study and Documentary Reveal Grim Pandemic Realities for America’s Doctors and Nurses

Frontline workers say they need more preparation, staff, and PPE and better information and diagnostics

November 18, 2021, Seattle, WA—Today, the Pandemic Action Network released new research findings revealing challenges that continue to burden doctors and nurses in the U.S. well over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and pointing to what is required to be better prepared for this crisis and future pandemic threats. Notably, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a problem — with nearly a third of doctors and nurses saying they did not have sufficient access to PPE, even as recently as summer 2021. Sixty-one percent felt that they did not have sufficient early warning to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite best efforts, a third felt it was challenging to follow changing workflows and protocols.

The study, funded by Flu Lab, included a survey conducted by Klick Consulting of 532 doctors and nurses from across the U.S. The survey focused on addressing perceptions of pandemic readiness, knowledge, containment, treatment, and vaccination. Additional qualitative interviews with nearly four dozen health officials, public health workers, doctors, and nurses, revealed a stark reality: while healthcare workers are committed to caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have faced increased personal risks and an exceptionally high work volume. And they need more support.

Dr. Carrie Tibbles, an ER physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, participated in this research. “Healthcare systems are really stressed right now, and the workforce is tired. Hospitals need support to build back up — and build our workforce back up — so we can take care of our communities,” said Dr. Tibbles. “The pandemic hit us so hard and in Boston, we felt the first wave shortly after New York. We were able to learn in real time from our friends and colleagues in New York and I’m confident we saved many lives as a result. But if we were armed with the tools to be better prepared for pandemics, I know we could do more.”

These stories further come to life in the new documentary, The First Wave, premiering today in New York at the DOC NYC festival and showing in select theaters tomorrow. The film focuses on the doctors, nurses, and patients from one of New York’s hardest-hit hospital systems during the “first wave” from March to June 2020. By laying bare what healthcare workers braved in hospitals flooded with COVID patients, The First Wave honors both their ongoing commitment to their patients, as well as their own personal sacrifice.

“The study results and the harrowing realities presented in The First Wave make one thing clear: we need to listen to doctors and nurses,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “Hailing health workers as heroes is insufficient — we must ensure they have the information and equipment to do their jobs effectively — before, during, and after a crisis.”

Survey participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their perspectives. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my pandemic experience and opinions… It is a rarity that we are asked about our experience,” said one participant. Another shared, “Thanks for working to improve our processes and systems for the next time this happens (hopefully never).”

“Healthcare workers around the country have been stretched to their breaking points countless times over the course of the pandemic. As a group, we have been labeled heroes, but healthcare workers are only human, and resilience is waning in the face of exhaustion and burnout,” said Dr. Kelly C. Sanders, a pediatrician and Pandemic Action Network member. Dr. Sanders also serves as the technical lead for the Pandemic Response Initiative at UCSF and co-authored a case study on the first year of the pandemic in the U.S. “As a country, if we don’t continue to improve frontline conditions, we risk losing desperately needed healthcare workers. We need to improve local vaccination rates, develop new diagnostic and treatment options, and provide more resources for our stressed public health and hospital systems. This is how the American public and decision-makers can show up for the frontline now.”

To respond to the findings of this study, Pandemic Action Network is calling on U.S. policymakers to:

  • Fully resource and accelerate the global COVID-19 response by allocating at least US$17 billion of new funding to assist the world in reaching 70 percent vaccine coverage in every country by the middle of 2022; save lives now through increased access to other lifesaving tools; and prevent future pandemics from occurring. Learn more.
  • Provide ongoing funding for surge capacity and measures that prioritize the safety and security of healthcare workers.
  • Approve the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act, in tandem with the Global Health Security Act to strengthen America’s cross-government coordination on pandemic preparedness and response and bolster our support for global preparedness.
  • Approve legislation to strengthen America’s Strategic National Stockpile to ensure adequate PPE and medical supplies for healthcare workers.
  • Approve the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals.
  • Approve a resolution that would designate the first Monday in March as “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day” to memorialize those lost to the COVID-19 virus and recognize the suffering of COVID-19 survivors.

More details of the research and survey results can be found here.

About Pandemic Action Network

Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to end the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network is a robust partnership of over 140 global multi-sector organizations aligned in a belief that every effort made in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a long-term legacy. One where humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

About Klick Consulting
Klick Consulting solves the problems others can’t by leveraging applied sciences and novel thinking to decode healthcare’s gnarliest challenges. The consultancy embraces science at the speed of business with a specific focus on commercial solutions with real-world applications. With its diverse team of medical, behavioral science, data science, engineering, business model, machine learning, and strategic design experts, the multidisciplinary, collaborative group resolves business problems through a scientific lens. Klick Consulting works with companies across the healthcare spectrum, including consumer wellness, pharmaceutical, device manufacturers, insurers, health systems, and providers.

CONTACT:
Courtney Morris (U.S. west coast)
[email protected]

Jaryd Leady (U.S. east coast)
[email protected]

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Announcing the Pandemic Action Network Ambassadors Program

We all feel it — the widespread desire and urgency to move on from the pandemic that has engulfed our lives for nearly the past two years. But we will only move on when the work is done and the work is far from over. COVID-19 continues to rage around the world and leaders have yet to take the bold actions needed to ensure we are better prepared and protected from future pandemic threats. In the cycle of “panic and neglect,” — defined by initial response to the crisis, but failing to act on long-term lessons and actually change the contributing factors of the crisis — we are teetering on neglect.

Pandemic Action Network was built to ensure that we not only end this crisis for everyone around the world, but to prevent the old cycle of “panic and neglect” from happening again. To achieve these goals, our partnership of over 140 diverse organizations is working to create the ongoing political will needed for action.

Numbers and research insights are helpful, but alone they are not enough to drive leaders to do what must be done to end this crisis and prevent the next pandemic. Leaders need personal reasons to act — they need to hear the personal stories, experiences, and challenges of the ongoing realities of living through this pandemic because, while many want to look at COVID in the rear-view mirror, we know that this crisis is far from over and will persist without action.

That’s why we are launching our new Pandemic Action Network Ambassadors Program.

Pandemic Action Ambassadors come in many forms — those who worked on the frontlines, parents balancing child care alongside their day job, people who have lost loved ones, people who have lost livelihoods, and those who have seen the impact of political inaction. Pandemic Action Ambassadors are people who care, people who are willing to stand up and speak up about the urgency of ending this crisis, building systems at every level to prepare humanity for future health threats, and learning the lessons of this pandemic.

We invite these people to come together and share their personal experiences to help us advance COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness. Along with a community of other Ambassadors, you will receive monthly emails with small but impactful ways to take action, the opportunity to connect with one another and engage in critical advocacy efforts. The priority application window is open through Tuesday, November 30 at 11:59pm ET. Apply now!

Your story and your voice are key to driving the progress we so desperately need. Together, we have the power to end this crisis and prevent the next pandemic.

Exclusion of Pandemic Financing in the Build Back Better Act Statement from the Global Health Council’s Global Health Security Roundtable Co-Chairs

“We are disheartened that, in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of the compromises made in the agreement on the Build Back Better Act was to cut out financing for future pandemic preparedness. While we welcome the needed US$1.3 billion to support expanded global vaccine production capacity and research on infectious diseases, the bill leaves out critical elements of President Biden’s American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, including the US$600 million requested to stand up a new multilateral fund to bolster global preparedness for future pandemics.

We represent dozens of organizations who have been calling for U.S. global leadership to establish such a fund to address pandemic threats. Establishing this fund is a long overdue step  toward addressing the years of chronic underinvestment that left America and the world vulnerable to COVID-19. There is strong bipartisan support for the fund from both the House and the Senate and from leading global finance and health experts, who have urged that the fund be set up swiftly and capitalized at US$10 billion per year over the next five years. While the US$600 million U.S. contribution to the fund that was included in the Biden Administration’s Pandemic Preparedness Plan represents only a fraction of the global need, it is an urgent first step toward helping prevent another devastating pandemic from happening again.

Omitting this critical funding from the bill will signal a return to complacency in the face of one of the most looming threats to our national and global security. And it will signal to other countries that President Biden’s signature initiative to establish a new fund to fight pandemics  — which he touted to world leaders at the Global COVID-19 Summit just one month ago as a key piece of his plan to Build Back Better — is not backed by any serious financial commitment or urgency from the United States. The White House and Congress should urgently agree to ensure the US$600 million for the multilateral fund is included in the Act before final passage and then urge other countries to join the U.S. and contribute their fair share.”

Why Masking Up Matters More Than Ever

By Gabrielle Fitzgerald, CEO and Founder of Panorama & Co-Founder of Pandemic Action Network

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told vaccinated Americans they could take off their masks. Many public health officials and advocates, including the Pandemic Action Network, questioned this shift, especially as so many Americans remained unvaccinated. In response, Anne Hoen, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth College, said, “Wearing masks should probably be one of the last things we stop doing.” This statement has stuck with me. To protect the most vulnerable, the unvaccinated and actually stop the spread of COVID-19, we need to deploy all our tools until the end.

And when it comes to wearing a mask, the science is clear: masking in public can provide another layer of protection and help prevent the virus from spreading to others who aren’t protected, regardless of vaccination status.

Now two months after the CDC guidance shift, we are seeing accelerated spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. In the U.S., every state is reporting increasing COVID-19 cases, thus demonstrating that relying on the honor system and local guidance alone is insufficient.

“Vaccines do not equal the end of the pandemic,” my Pandemic Action Network co-founder Eloise Todd shared with Forbes. “With vaccines and other precautions like face masks, we moved so close to normal. Why would we now move away from these measures?”

I agree. More than ever, it’s important that we stay focused on what can keep us all safe.

This month the Pandemic Action Network once again catalyzed our network of 130+ partners to ignite a global movement around the importance of continued masking.

With #ThanksForMasking selfies from leaders from Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, to Smita Sabharwal, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros, and Dr. Tom Frieden and key messages shared by organizations like UNICEF, Africa CDC, and 3M, this year’s World Mask Week campaign reached 250M+ people and was shared in 171 countries, or nearly 90% of countries around the world.

(Side note, if you’re interested in partnering with us to reach communities in the other 25 countries we didn’t reach, like Burkina Faso, Cyprus, and Chad, we’d love to talk!)

World Mask Week 2021 came at an absolutely critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, like the U.S., with access to vaccines were in the process of opening up, dropping mask-wearing guidance, and ignoring the fact that the pandemic is very much not over for the majority of people around the world. In fact, countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, and many others in Africa and Latin America, are suffering some of their worst peaks of this pandemic yet. And, they are not alone, the more contagious Delta variant is sparking COVID-19 spikes around the globe, including countries with relatively high vaccination rates, such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

But sadly, we have moved away from consistent mask-wearing and World Mask Week was a reminder that not only should we continue to mask up, but we need clear and consistent masking guidance at the national level in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While World Mask Week turned up the volume of this key call-to-action, there is urgent work to be done to ensure masking up is fundamental to our collective COVID-19 response. The fact is not lost on us that World Mask Week concluded the day before the U.K. celebrated “freedom day.” And, here in the U.S., Los Angeles Country reinstated an indoor masking order amidst an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, recently disclosed that U.S. health officials are actively considering a revision to the mask guidance. However, as of this article’s publish date, the Center for Disease Control has not updated their guidance for full vaccinated individuals. As we shared in a policy brief this month, masking still matters, and governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play in normalizing mask-wearing to protect those who are most vulnerable and to end this pandemic for everyone.

That’s why we’re so thankful for all of our partners who participated in World Mask Week this year and helped amplify our collective #ThanksForMasking call-to-action. And, we will continue to rally around this issue and not mask the truth when it comes to the importance of the simple and effective act of mask-wearing.

#ThanksForMasking and continue to mask up until we end this pandemic for everyone.

World Mask Week 2021 Catalyzes a Global Movement to Continue Masking Up

People, leaders, and organizations around the world rallied behind the ongoing importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic for all!

Pandemic Action Network, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the African Union, 3M, and more than 70 partner organizations launched World Mask Week 2021 with two goals in mind. First to unite the globe around a simple message: masking in public is still one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and others against COVID-19. The second, to show gratitude for those who have masked throughout this pandemic and continue to do so via the message #ThanksForMasking.

World Mask Week came at a pivotal time in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Delta variant fueling Africa’s third wave, record numbers of cases in countries around the world, and increased spread from Indonesia and Bangladesh to Colombia and South Africa. The campaign was made even more relevant as the U.K. and U.S., countries with relatively high vaccination rates, debated masking guidance and reopening despite a marked increase in cases.

Over the course of one week — July 12-18 — World Mask Week met the moment.:

 

Beyond the conversation taking place on social media, Forbes published a strong piece about the importance of continued masking and featured quotes from Pandemic Action Network co-founder Eloise Todd alongside partner content. In addition, Triple Pundit made the business case for ongoing masking noting that “World Mask Week shouldn’t just be a 2020 or 2021 thing. Wearing masks has become one of the most effective ways to stall the spread of diseases, and companies seeking to check some ESG boxes would be wise to support such a global effort.”

What now?
While World Mask Week turned up the volume of this urgent issue, we still need clear and consistent masking guidance at the national level in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Pandemic Action team published a policy briefing called “Why Masking Still Matters” that includes key messaging regarding the importance of continued masking and recommendations for governments, businesses, and individuals. This document will drive Network-wide ongoing advocacy efforts to accelerate clear and consistent masking guidance.

Overall, we learned that responding with urgency is worth it. People around the world — especially those who are bearing the brunt of this raging pandemic — are eager to engage and be a voice for the importance of masking up alongside other interventions such as handwashing, physical distancing, and getting vaccinated when vaccines are available.

Thank you to all of our partners for their dedication to doing whatever it takes to keep the world safe from COVID-19. #ThanksForMasking.

For more information, visit worldmaskweek.com.

Your Pandemic Story Matters — Apply for a Pandemic Storytelling Workshop with The Moth

We’ve learned many things during the pandemic, but one is the importance of storytelling and consistent messaging. A compelling story can move people to action, while disinformation can put people’s lives at risk. This means that honing our individual ability to deliver a message can actually help end this pandemic and better prepare for, or even prevent, the next.

But, are we equipped to tell stories that will move decisionmakers to action? As policymakers and advocates respond and analyze the impact of the pandemic, we often talk about big metrics — GDP and job loss numbers — but those analyses fail to account for the individual, social, and economic impact of this global crisis.

Now is the time to sharpen our storytelling skills and amplify community-level experiences and lessons learned. The Moth, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pandemic Action Network, are holding three free-of-charge virtual storytelling workshops to amplify community-level stories from the pandemic’s frontlines. 

If you have a passion for storytelling that can make a difference and a frontline experience from the COVID-19 pandemic, we invite you to learn more and apply.

Please note that the deadline application has passed. To stay in the loop for more opportunities this like this, sign up for our Pandemic Action Playbook. 

The First 100 Days of the Biden Presidency: A Pandemic Progress Report

Carolyn Reynolds, Co-founder & Courtney Carson, Senior Program Officer, Pandemic Action Network

The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed almost every aspect of President Biden’s first 100 days in office. During the transition, the Pandemic Action Network and leading global health experts called on then-President-elect Biden to take bold steps and work with Congress and with world leaders to end the pandemic as soon as possible and ensure we are better prepared for the next one.

So how has the Biden-Harris Administration done so far, and what remains to be done?

Prioritizing the threat: Right out of the gate, President Biden made a series of welcome announcements to prioritize pandemic response both at home and abroad.  

 

These early announcements included reversing the politically-motivated decision last year to initiate U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). Instead the Biden-Harris Administration has leaned in to bolster the WHO and the international response to this crisis. Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris’s first conversation as VP with a global leader was with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros.

COVID-19 response: President Biden has shown leadership by wearing a mask consistently in public, and by issuing a universal mask mandate for all federal buildings, public transportation, and transportation hubs. This cemented the science-backed recommendation that wearing a mask is a key preventative measure. In addition, his first major legislative package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), provided urgently needed relief to families, states, and communities grappling with the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19, and  accelerated the frontline pandemic response both at home and abroad. Despite some early challenges, the domestic vaccine rollout has accelerated in Biden’s first 100 days, with 235 million vaccines administered and 98 million people fully vaccinated as of today, according to the CDC. Despite these efforts, vaccination rates are now slowing — a worrying trend as vaccines skepticism grows across the U.S.

On the global response front, the Biden Administration has also taken some important steps, namely to commit a total of $7.5 billion to date to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) partnership and its COVAX financing facility to ramp up access to vaccines and other lifesaving tools around the world. As a result, the U.S. is now the leading donor to this global solidarity effort. Highlighting its commitment to the global response, the U.S. hosted international leaders to kick off a virtual resource mobilization campaign for COVAX, urging other wealthy nations to contribute. It also announced agreements to loan vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico, and to provide relief and vaccine donations to India, including mobilizing the U.S. military to provide emergency aid in the face of the country’s growing COVID-19 crisis.  

Pandemic preparedness: U.S. leadership is also needed to strengthen systems for pandemic preparedness, at home and abroad. Pandemic Action Network continues to urge President Biden and other world leaders to lay the groundwork for a pandemic-proof America and world now — before the pandemic fades from view and political and public attention shifts to other priorities, as it has too many times before.  

Here again, the Biden-Harris Administration has laid down some important early markers. First at home: The American Jobs Plan includes a serious commitment of $30 billion to bolster prevent future pandemics and protect against a range of biological threats. This represents renewed and increased commitment to bolstering research and development, surveillance, and strategic stockpiles to ensure America is ready to respond to future disease threats. 

On the global front, President Biden is leading a push for new sustainable financing to help all countries be prepared to counter pandemic threats. Pandemic Action Network is pleased that in NSM1 and several follow-on announcements, the Biden-Harris Administration has expressed its intent to heed our call to establish an enduring international catalytic financing mechanism for preparedness, with the aim to ensure that every country has the core capacity it needs to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks at their source before they become deadly and costly pandemics like COVID-19. Earlier this week, Vice President Harris urged representatives at the United Nations to work together now to prepare for the next pandemic. The Administration’s initial budget proposal for FY22 released April 9 backs up these pledges with a $1 billion increase in funding for global health security. 

Looking Ahead: This progress in President Biden’s first 100 days is a welcome start. But much more must be done, and urgently — as the pandemic continues to rage around the world and as the next pandemic threat is looming. Pandemic Action Network has issued an Agenda for Action for world leaders. U.S. support will be critical to drive progress in all of these areas, but here are three where the Biden-Harris Administration can and should lead the way now:

  • Expanded global vaccine access is vital to ending this pandemic. According to the Launch and Scale Faster initiative at Duke University, the U.S. has secured at least 500 million more doses than it needs to vaccinate every American, while some of the poorest nations have yet to receive a single dose. Given U.S. success in vaccination — and the threat to the U.S. of the continued spread of COVID-19 and its variants in other parts of the globe — the Biden-Harris Administration should lead the way to immediately share more excess doses with the world through COVAX. In his first address to Congress, President Biden committed to sharing vaccines with the world once the U.S. has amassed additional supply and when all Americans have access to COVID-19 vaccine. We are there, and we will not end this pandemic if we continue to allow other countries to go unserved. And President Biden should also work with world leaders to agree on a Global COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap to reach at least 70% global vaccine coverage as soon as possible. 
  • Mobilize additional domestic and international funding for preparedness on par with the threat. To this end, we urge the U.S. to build on its commitment to establish a global financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness with a pledge of at least $2 billion to start, and call on other G7 and G20 member countries to join the U.S. and invest in this effort toward an initial capitalization of $20 billion this year. Separately, the U.S. should also commit a multi-year pledge toward fully funding the five-year plan of action for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is playing a critical role in accelerating global access to vaccines in this crisis, and has set a bold goal to compress the future timeline to develop new vaccines for emerging pandemic threats so that they can be quickly developed, tested, and rolled out in an emergency. This is the kind of ambition the world needs, and the U.S. must do its fair share to advance this global public good.  
  • Fix the global pandemic defense system. While new and dedicated funding for preparedness is absolutely critical, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that we must strengthen our international instruments of leadership and accountability to ensure both better preparedness and more rapid response to potential pandemics. This includes strengthening our existing global mechanisms such as the WHO and International Health Regulations, but also seriously entertaining bold and new modalities and frameworks for pandemic governance, such as the proposal for a new pandemic treaty, which now has the backing of dozens of other world leaders. President Biden convened world leaders last week on climate change to push for bold solutions; pandemic threats deserve the same level of political priority.

 

The next few months will see a series of global summits and convenings, offering world leaders multiple opportunities to seize the moment and take action. Pandemic Action Network urges President Biden and his Administration to seize these opportunities, doubling down on the progress of the first 100 days and going bigger and bolder on ending this pandemic and preventing the next. While progress since January 20 has been meaningful, the costs of the U.S. and the world failing to act sooner continue to mount — and the pandemic is far from over. Now is the time for a step change in the ambition of the U.S. and global leaders to do what it will take to end this pandemic for everyone, and ensure that COVID-19 leaves a long-term legacy of a pandemic-proof world. 

Pandemic Action Network Applauds Bipartisan Support for Global Health Security Legislation in U.S. House of Representatives

March 25, 2021 – Pandemic Action Network warmly welcomes the bipartisan advancement of a key global health security bill by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee today. The Global Health Security Act of 2021 is an important step forward to accelerate and deepen U.S. global leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, and draws on lessons learned from COVID-19 to strengthen and invest in global efforts to detect, prevent, and respond to emerging pandemic threats that will keep America and the world healthier, safer, and more secure.

The Global Health Security Act of 2021 (HR 391) legislates the U.S. commitment to, and leadership in, the Global Health Security Agenda, a partnership of 70 countries working to secure global health security. In addition to elevating and improving U.S. prioritization and coordination of global health security efforts, the bill also instructs the Administration to work with other donor nations and multilateral stakeholders to establish a new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness, which will leverage public and private financing to rapidly accelerate pandemic preparedness in lower-income countries. The Fund echoes calls from the Pandemic Action Network and partners as well as the language included in the recent National Security Memorandum from the White House to stand up an enduring, catalytic international financing mechanism to help countries close critical gaps in their preparedness for potential pandemics and incentivize sustainable domestic public and private sector investments in global health security. The Network calls  on the President and Congress to commit at least $2 billion to jumpstart the Fund this year.

Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds said, “Pandemic Action Network applauds the strong bipartisan cooperation in the House Foreign Affairs Committee to advance the Global Health Security Act, demonstrating the urgent imperative for U.S. global leadership to make the world safer from pandemic threats. Chronic underinvestment in public health systems and pandemic preparedness has been a major factor in the inadequate control of COVID-19 around the world, and that neglect must stop once and for all.  The bipartisan support for this bill underscores that health security is not a partisan issue, but it is the smart, strategic, and right thing to do—for America and the world.  

“We thank House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Meeks, Ranking Member McCaul, and Representatives Connolly and Chabot for their leadership and strong commitment to heed the lessons learned from COVID-19 and help ensure that America engages with the world in preventing another deadly, costly pandemic from happening again. We urge the entire House to approve this critical health security bill without delay.”

Pandemic Action Network Praises White House Actions to Bolster the COVID-19 Response and Prioritize Pandemic Preparedness

The Pandemic Action Network warmly welcomes the suite of early announcements by the Biden-Harris Administration to elevate and accelerate global efforts to help hasten an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that America and the world is better prepared for emerging pandemic threats. The decisions and commitments by the White House adopt several of the recommendations that were included in a paper submitted to the Biden-Harris transition team by a group of leading U.S. global health policy experts, including two of our Pandemic Action Network co-founders, Carolyn Reynolds and Gabrielle Fitzgerald.

On his first day in office, President Biden signed a new Executive Order to organize and mobilize the U.S. government to provide an effective COVID-19 response and provide U.S. leadership on global health security. This was followed on day two with a National Security Directive on U.S. Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness and an Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High Consequence Public Health Threats. In addition, to underscore the new Administration’s support for the global COVID-19 response, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros and Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the WHO’s Executive Board meeting.

Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds said,

“These early announcements and actions by President Biden and his Administration to prioritize global health security represent the kind of bold leadership that has been lacking on pandemic response and preparedness for far too long. We are delighted to see that President Biden has rightly elevated pandemic threats as a top national security priority for the United States, and that the plan he has put forward is both national and global, recognizing that America’s health and security depends on stopping COVID-19 and future biothreats both at home and abroad.

The Pandemic Action Network and our partners look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to follow through on these commitments and leave a legacy that better prepares America and the world to address emerging pandemic threats and ensure that a deadly and costly pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again.”

Collectively, the White House actions taken to date respond to our Network’s calls for the Biden-Harris Administration on several issues, including to: prioritize and scale up financing for pandemic preparedness and response both at home and abroad; step up U.S. support for the global COVID-19 response, including joining the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and the COVAX Facility; reform and strengthen the World Health Organization; invest in better outbreak detection and analytics; strengthen global supply chains for frontline pandemic response, including for personal protective equipment; and elevate leadership and accountability within the U.S. government on pandemics.

Open Letter – Calling on President Biden to Establish a COVID-19 Task Force Focused on U.S. K-12 Schools

A collective of educators and public health professionals is urging the Biden Administration to establish a task force focused specifically on reopening schools as quickly and as safely as possible.  Pandemic Action Network Co-founders Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Carolyn Reynolds have signed on to this open letter. While we applaud the urgency set forth by the Biden Administration already, evidenced by inclusion of school funding in the stimulus proposal as well as the goal of reopening schools in the first 100 days, we believe there needs to be focused interdisciplinary attention to schools at a national level to address the intersection of health, education, and labor issues. We have already lost significant time. Please read and sign on to the letter to ask President Biden to urgently stand up a task force to focus on schools in support of the first 100 days agenda.

Read the full letter here.

Email [email protected] to sign on to this open letter.

Go Big: President Biden Has an Unprecedented Opportunity to Make Humanity Safer from Pandemic Threats

By: Carolyn Reynolds

The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new U.S. President and Vice President has arrived with a mix of sadness and hope. The 400 lights along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and 200,000 flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. are poignant reminders of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The deadly combination of this protracted health crisis and the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol building have cast a dark shadow over this historic occasion. Yet it also underscores the tremendous urgency – and opportunity – to finally get COVID-19 under control and take the steps necessary to make America and the world better prepared for future pandemic threats. It is now or never to go big – both on pandemic response and on preparedness.

With 400,000 American deaths and counting and tens of millions of families struggling with unemployment, hunger, and virtual schooling, the new Administration has rightly made the domestic COVID-19 response job one. Before inauguration, President Biden rolled out an ambitious $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus and response plan and plan to vaccinate 100 million in 100 days. Included in the package is a relatively very modest, but critically important, $11 billion toward the global pandemic response – recognizing America will not be safe until every country is safe, and that America’s health and economic recovery from the pandemic is highly dependent on the world’s health and recovery.

More good news came from Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken’s remarks at his confirmation hearing that the United States would formally join COVAX to promote global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Together with the appointment of an experienced slate of leaders to key Administration posts who are highly knowledgeable on pandemic threats – Blinken, Ron Klain, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Beth Cameron, Bonnie Jenkins, and Rochelle Walensky, among others – and the plan to reverse withdrawal of the United States from the WHO on day one, the Biden-Harris Administration is off to a good start.

But the new President and his team must do much more to meet this moment in history. Even as we fight the pandemic before us, the next pandemic will not wait. The failure to sustain high-level political leadership and investments to prioritize pandemic preparedness left the world highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. A full year into this crisis, there are still gaping holes around the world in frontline infection prevention and control capabilities and reliable data. Gaps in affordable access to vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks are more glaring than ever, despite repeated warnings and solutions from numerous expert commissions and reports over the past five years. It should not be this way.

It is time to go big. As a centerpiece of President Biden’s plans to assert America’s position as a go-to leader and partner on the world stage, we are urging the Biden-Harris Administration to work with Congress and world leaders to launch and lead an aggressive agenda for action on global health security, including:

1) Finish the fight on the global COVID-19 response: Urgently help close the remaining financing gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to support widespread global distribution of vaccines, and commit to work through the COVAX facility to exchange and/or donate vaccine supplies to support other nations in need.

2) Ramp up U.S. investments in global health and pandemic preparedness: Establish a dedicated Global Health Security Challenge Fund to accelerate national investments to close critical health security gaps and stimulate a global “race to the top” for preparedness. The United States should commit $2 billion to kickstart a $10-20 billion Challenge Fund – a tremendous bargain compared to the trillions being spent for COVID response and recovery. Overall, the United States should double funding for global health security and other global health programs over the next five years, including investing in a stronger frontline health workforce as the first line of defense for outbreaks.

3) Build a smarter global pandemic defense system: Ensure the WHO is fit-for-purpose, including reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework and a state-of-the-art, global outbreak detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats. The United States should also put pandemic preparedness at the top of the UN Security Council agenda and call on the UN Secretary-General to convene heads of state in a global preparedness summit this year.

4) Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats: Make a $200 million commitment for U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and expand its capacity to serve as a permanent global R&D coordination hub with an end-to-end approach. Leaders should also fortify a network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs so that every continent and every nation can quickly get the tools to stop outbreaks at their source. Supporting a global health security-focused Grand Challenge at USAID and a permanent emerging and reemerging infectious diseases funding line for BARDA will be other key tools in our pandemic arsenal.

5) Elevate U.S. global leadership, diplomacy, and accountability: Designate and empower high-level interagency leadership roles with the funding necessary to elevate and sustain global preparedness as a continuing national security, diplomatic, and health priority. A 9/11-style bipartisan Commission on the U.S. Response to COVID-19 would provide a critical public examination and political pressure to address the most urgent national and global preparedness gaps, and seek ways to protect the independence of our science and public health agencies.

This won’t be easy, given pressing domestic demands and deep divides and distrust in Congress and the American public. But like the response to 9/11 and the AIDS pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis demands extraordinary U.S. global leadership, ingenuity, and political resolve – to treat pandemics as the existential global and national security threat they are.

The good news is that there is a strong record of bipartisan support on addressing infectious disease threats to build on – from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and the 2015 Ebola supplemental bill. President Obama’s November 2016 Executive Order was left in place by the Trump White House, which also produced a strong Biodefense Strategy (2018) and Global Health Security Strategy (2019) at the direction of Congress. Bipartisan House and Senate bills introduced in the last Congress provide a starting point for building a new consensus.

Just as the military continuously prepares for war on multiple fronts, we can and must prevent the next pandemic while fighting this one. But the political opportunity to act is now, while the impact of COVID-19 is still front and center in people’s lives. Waiting until this pandemic is over or the next one comes is simply too late. We must not wait for the next crisis to act.

Statement on FY21 Omnibus and Emergency COVID-19 Spending Bill

Pandemic Action Network welcomes emergency funding for Gavi, urges new Administration and Congress to prioritize global investments in pandemic preparedness and response

Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds released the following statement on the FY21 omnibus and emergency COVID-19 spending bill:

“We are pleased that Congress saw fit to include $4 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in the final omnibus and emergency spending bill to support the global COVID-19 response. These funds will help ensure that people in need around the world can receive lifesaving vaccines as soon as possible, regardless of where they live.

But Congress must do much more to support global efforts to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one. A U.S. contribution of $4 billion for the Global Fund and $200 million for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are also urgently needed as part of a broader global response package to address COVID-19’s devastating impacts, which threaten to set back years, if not decades, of progress in global health.

Increasing global investments in pandemic preparedness and response is squarely in the U.S. interest: America will not be safe until every country is safe, and America’s health and economic recovery is highly dependent on global health and recovery. Like the response to 9/11 and the AIDS pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis demands extraordinary U.S. global leadership to treat pandemics as the existential national security threat they are.

We urge the 117th Congress and incoming Biden Administration to work together to significantly step up the global fight against infectious disease threats and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.”

Read our recommendations for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration here.

Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration – Now or Never: An Agenda for Global Action to Make America and the World Safer from Pandemic Threats

We urge President-elect Biden and the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to launch and lead an aggressive agenda for action on global health security to end the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible while accelerating global preparedness for the next pandemic. The following five-point agenda for action has been prepared by a group of leading U.S. global health policy experts, including two of our Pandemic Action Network co-founders. The outlined recommendations reflect the group’s collective experience as well as the conclusions of an extensive body of research and reports from numerous expert groups over the past five years. As the pandemic has upended lives and livelihoods in every household in America and every corner of the globe, the political moment is ripe for President-elect Biden to galvanize and lead a global coalition of public and private actors around a shared commitment to help prevent a deadly and costly pandemic like COVID-19 from happening again. President-elect Biden has the opportunity to leave a longer-term legacy that will better prepare humanity to more effectively address emerging pandemic threats, and break the persistent cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. Waiting until this crisis is over or until the next one happens will be too late. It’s now or never. Read the five-point agenda white paper here: Now or Never: An Agenda for Global Action to Make America and the World Safer from Pandemic Threats

Statement on President-Elect Biden’s Announcement of Ron Klain as Next White House Chief of Staff

The Pandemic Action Network welcomes President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of Ron Klain to serve as the White House Chief of Staff for President-elect Biden.

Together with the Biden-Harris transition team’s announcement earlier this week of a seven-point plan to fight COVID-19 and a COVID-19 Advisory Board of seasoned public health experts, Klain’s appointment is a welcome signal that the incoming administration will make pandemics a top priority.

Network Co-founders Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Carolyn Reynolds stated, “Getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control is job one for the Biden-Harris Administration. Ron’s experience as Ebola Czar and his continuing advocacy will bring a strong manager and voice on pandemic threats to the White House. When it comes to pandemics, it’s time to break the cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. The Pandemic Action Network looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to do everything we can to end this pandemic and invest in better preparedness in the United States and around the world so that this never happens again.”

Multilateralism Matters: Why the U.S. Should Stay in the WHO

By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

*This blog is adapted from an article published in CQ Researcher, September 2020

As the world marks United Nations Day on October 24 – in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight ― it’s a good moment to reflect on how much the United States benefits from the UN, and in particular its membership in the World Health Organization (WHO). U.S. membership in the WHO is on the ballot in the presidential election, with the current Administration’s decision to initiate withdrawal of the U.S. from the WHO. On the other side, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if he were to be elected President he would reverse the decision on day one in office.

The choice is clear: the WHO serves U.S. interests in several ways, and never more so than now.

First, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world can quickly put American lives and livelihoods at risk. Until a vaccine exists and is widely and equitably delivered around the world, no country will be safe from COVID-19. Ending the pandemic requires a united global effort, in which the WHO plays an indispensable role. Countries worldwide rely on the WHO’s expertise to lead the global response to the pandemic, from providing technical guidance on proven interventions to coordinating international efforts to accelerate research, development, and universal access to a COVID-19 vaccine and to therapeutics. The WHO-coordinated Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and Solidarity Trial are unprecedented global efforts that will increase the likelihood of ending the pandemic faster.

Second, the WHO has led global efforts to combat a host of other infectious disease threats. The eradication in 1980 of smallpox, which killed an estimated 300 million people during the 20th century, is one of the agency’s greatest achievements. With sustained WHO leadership, the world is now extremely close to eradicating polio, down to just 176 cases worldwide in 2019.  U.S. political and economic support has been vital to this effort, and withdrawal could stall efforts to end this debilitating scourge. International efforts to fight influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis also depend on the WHO for support.

Third, the WHO provides the backbone for the world’s infectious disease early warning system.  Working closely with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the WHO helps governments assess their pandemic preparedness gaps and mobilize early detection and response efforts. U.S. withdrawal will hobble that capacity and leave a major hole in the common global defense against growing pandemic threats.

Both the WHO and the United States have lessons to learn from this pandemic. While the WHO’s emergency response capacity has improved considerably in recent years, all agree it can be strengthened. An independent panel has been established to review the global COVID-19 response and what governments, the WHO, and the international system could do differently to improve their preparedness and response. But scapegoating the WHO for COVID-19 is a political distraction. The agency, which lacks the ability to compel member states to act, is only as effective as its members – particularly its most powerful member and largest donor – will allow.

Leaving the WHO will further erode U.S. influence on the global stage. It would be ill-advised at any time, but to do so as the world grapples with the mounting health and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is unfathomable. Only global solidarity and a coordinated, multilateral approach will bring us safely out of this war against a deadly virus that knows no borders.

America needs the WHO, and the WHO needs America. The U.S. should not only stay in, it should also step up its support ― to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.

The Wrong Decision for America and the World

July 14, 2020
By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

The wrong decision for America and the world

Last week, the Administration took the first formal step to initiate the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). This decision will have huge negative consequences for America and the world – never more so than in the middle of a global pandemic.

Under the terms of the 1948 joint resolution of Congress authorizing membership in the WHO, there are two conditions for a US withdrawal: a one-year notice – on which the clock is now ticking – and full payment of outstanding US financial obligations, or assessed contributions, which currently total $203 million – $120 million for Fiscal Year 2020 and $83 million unpaid from Fiscal Year 2019.

More than ever, America needs the WHO, and the WHO needs America – its largest donor and most powerful member. Here is a brief look at how membership in the WHO serves America’s interests:

First, the pandemic has laid bare how infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world can quickly spread and put American lives and livelihoods at risk. Until there is a vaccine, no country will be safe. Ending the pandemic requires a united global effort, in which WHO plays an indispensable role. From providing technical guidance on proven public health interventions to coordinating international efforts to accelerate research, development and universal access to a COVID vaccine and therapeutics, countries around the world trust WHO and rely on its expertise to lead the COVID-19 response. The WHO-coordinated Action for Covid Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and Solidarity Trial are unprecedented global efforts that will increase the likelihood of ending the pandemic faster.

Second, WHO has led global efforts to combat a host of other infectious disease threats. The eradication of smallpox in 1980, which killed an estimated 300 million people in the 20th century, is one of WHO’s greatest achievements. With sustained WHO leadership, the world is now extremely close to eradicating polio, down to just 176 cases worldwide in 2019. US political support and funding has been vital to this effort, and withdrawal could stall efforts to end this debilitating scourge to humanity. International efforts to fight influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis all depend heavily on the WHO – with US cooperation and funding – for support.

Third, WHO provides the backbone for the world’s infectious disease early warning system. Working closely with experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for International Development, and through the Joint External Evaluations and oversight of the technical support, WHO helps governments assess their preparedness gaps and mobilize early detection and response efforts. US withdrawal will hobble WHO’s capacity and leave a major hole in our common global defense to pandemic threats, which are on the rise.

As of this writing, several Members of Congress (not enough!) had spoken up against the decision, among them retiring Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN):

“Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it. Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States. If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen.”

Both WHO and the US have many lessons to learn from this pandemic. WHO’s emergency response capacity has improved considerably in recent years, but there’s widespread consensus that additional reforms are needed. In May, WHO member states approved a resolution to conduct an impartial, independent and comprehensive review, and WHO Director-General Tedros announced that Former Liberian President and Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will co-chair the panel. Among the many issues they will need to examine is WHO’s funding model and its limited ability to compel member states to act, including review of the International Health Regulations. The reality is that WHO is only as effective as its members allow it to be – and particularly its largest donor.

The health and security case for US membership and support for WHO is clear – and leaving WHO or trying to set up an alternative body will only serve to further erode US influence on the global stage. The decision to withdraw could be revoked at any time before the one-year deadline; presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if he were to become President he would reverse the decision on day one. But this should never be a partisan issue.  The US should stay in and use its might to ensure a stronger WHO – to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.